Sony Pictures Classics | Release Date: December 20, 2002
7.1
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Generally favorable reviews based on 52 Ratings
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8
SpangleFeb 10, 2017
Spider is a film that left me feeling quite cold initially. Not nearly as weird as David Cronenberg's early work, Spider is a more reserved film with an hour and a half of Ralph Fiennes exclusively mumbling. He has a few lines, but mostlySpider is a film that left me feeling quite cold initially. Not nearly as weird as David Cronenberg's early work, Spider is a more reserved film with an hour and a half of Ralph Fiennes exclusively mumbling. He has a few lines, but mostly just mumbles those too. Thus, it was a hard film to pin down and truly wring enjoyment out of from beginning to end. However, the finale is what cements this as a brilliant work. Far more reserved and grounded than Cronenberg is known for, Spider is an exploration of the mind of a broken man. Why is he forced to live out his days in an asylum after being seemingly fine as a child? Well, Cronenberg gives you the unexpected answer in a finale that elevates the entire film into being a very good character study.

Mumbling, bumbling, and stumbling his way through the film, Dennis "Spider" Cleg (Ralph Fiennes) is a broken man. In a halfway home after leaving the asylum, he relives part of his childhood in his mind. Living with a devoted mother, Mrs. Cleg (Miranda Richardson), he has an alcoholic father Bill (Gabriel Byrne). His mediocre life gets worse when he believes he sees his father begin to find another woman attractive. Soon, this turn into a full blown affair and possible murder. This shakes the very core of the boy and, whatever mental issues he had before, become exacerbated and truly take hold. The boy is traumatized by what transpires and it leaves him turning into his own mind and tying strings around his room like a spider web. The broken adult version of Dennis shows no signs of overcoming what he has seen, still visibly shaken and incredibly meek.

This character study of a man and an exploration of what troubles him so is incredibly sympathetic. Blocking out traumatic experiences and the horror it causes him when he realizes what really occurred in beautifully captured by Cronenberg. Fiennes never has a freak out, he just looks dead in the eyes and carries this look throughout. He just floats through life in a brilliantly reserved and sympathetic portrayal of this man. Cronenberg, for his part, makes the trauma real and authentic. Seen through the eyes of a boy, it is easy to see how things can be misunderstood and such traumatic incidences certainly leave him pushing the events out of his mind. The finale reveals the truth and is incredibly well handled and makes a lot of sense. In this way, the film becomes quite shocking due to the unexpected nature of the finale and how all of the pieces fit together. In many ways, the film is like a puzzle and Cronenberg hints at that throughout. After a glass window shatters, the asylum workers put together the window again to ensure all the broken pieces are there. The end result looks like a puzzle and a spider web. For Dennis, he also tries to put together a real puzzle, but gets incredibly frustrated and throws it across the room. This is also symbolic for the viewer as the film takes some time to come together. The pieces do not fit perfectly and instead get caught up in the web spun by Cronenberg himself. It can be a frustrating and challenging experience as this is a reserved film that refuses to give way to dramatics. A character study that shows how we compartmentalize things and the damaging impact it can have on our psyche, Spider is a film that messes with your mind and thrills in equal measure. Yet, it is a film that does not feature kooky David Cronenberg. Rather, he avoids theatrics and shock, instead going for a slowly unwinding mental knot of confusion and trauma. For his part, Fiennes is brilliant, even if his lines are limited. He truly shows his range here as he plays a man mostly through just emoting and looks in his eyes. He is not forced into acting crazy or having breakdowns at any point. Rather, his pain is far more subtle and somberly portrayed. Spider is a film that explores mental illness with grace and class, refusing to turn the mentally ill into mere props for entertainment. Instead, it shows the horror that the mind can produce for those that suffer from any form of mental illness.
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All this user's reviews
10
MethusalahJan 9, 2008
This movie was visually astounding. It had more eye catching, amazingly framed scenes than any previous Cronenberg movie. A surreal trek through a day in the life of a mentally ill individual.
0 of 0 users found this helpful
10
MathewB.Jul 6, 2007
A masterpiece of perception of reality vs. reality
0 of 0 users found this helpful
10
williamwApr 1, 2009
The most nerve-racking, chillingly precise film about mental illness ever made. In my humble opinion, the director's magnus opus.
0 of 0 users found this helpful
9
EonOct 20, 2006
Great acting, great directing, great puzzle. ;)
0 of 0 users found this helpful
10
VocecitaOct 26, 2006
An excellent movie.
0 of 0 users found this helpful